The Premiership plan, what Champion Data stats say about every AFL club in 2023

“Don’t forget that Geelong already did this in the 1999 and 2001 draft. They took a bunch of players with them… when they arrived in 2007 they had five or six years of experience together. I’m guessing eight or nine of them ended up playing 300 games.”

These designs resulted in the likes of Cameron Ling, Jimmy Bartel, Joel Corey, James Kelly, Steve Johnson and Paul Chapman walking into what is now GMHBA Stadium. However, as one recruiter said this week, the Cats “kept their cool” in 2006 when they considered firing coach Mark Thompson. A flag came a year later.

Get on board: Charlie Curnow and the Blues think it's time for a breakthrough in September.

Get on board: Charlie Curnow and the Blues think it’s time for a breakthrough in September.Credit:Getty Images

As Rendell has hinted, the Bombers still appear to be out of the Premiership under new manager Brad Scott, having averaged 24.6 years and 74.4 games played last year. The Hawks have made deep cuts, trading veterans Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara and Jack Gunston while captain Ben McEvoy retired.

Of course, statistics can be twisted to reinforce an argument. Obviously in the young men’s sport of the AFL in the modern, highly competitive game there will be no teams with an average age of 30 or more.

Adelaide’s deep rebuild over the last year was evidenced by them having the youngest median age (24) and games (64.2). Their average games were almost less than half the historical blueprint, confirming how far the Crows were from the challenging group – for now. Taking the junior sport as a guide and using a two-year difference from under 12 to under 14, the Crows can expect a jump in physical and mental ability this year.

Die-hard Crows fans can check out 2008’s Hawthorn, 2010’s Collingwood, 2016’s Bulldogs and 21’s Demons, where age wasn’t a barrier to a flag.

Rising superstar Nick Daicos and his Magpies are of the right age and league to be in contention for a Premiership.

Rising superstar Nick Daicos and his Magpies are of the right age and league to be in contention for a Premiership.Credit:AFL photos

The Bulldogs of ’16 were an anomaly in other areas as well, finding the right formula the year the AFL introduced the pre-Finals bye, allowing a handful of top-flight players to return from injury.

Dems football boss Alan Richardson, who started the rebuilding while there as St Kilda manager, said there was generally a cycle to success.


“The player [initially] wants to get a game, he then wants to become a really good player and then you’ll end up with quite a few who want to go from wanting to be a good player to becoming a Premiership player,” Richardson said.

“They become so much more consistent. They trained preseason, they trained their own bodies, they’ve been in it for five or six years. I know every club and have worked at a few, are very aware of the importance of profiling and the number of games you have to cater to types.

“It’s always balanced with selection integrity. You don’t want to just get games in guys just because they are 24, 25 and must have played 70 games. If they don’t deserve it, you don’t want to jeopardize that. And they have to be good players. This is as important as anything else. It’s one thing to have a 25-year-old who’s played 70 games, he has to have the ability to do whatever you want him to do to win.”

Recruiters can turn to algorithms that combine age with a 200-game cap for help to decipher the demographics of their list.

Skeptics this season could also question West Coast’s profile this season. The Eagles still have a seasoned roster in terms of age and games played, but rival clubs are tipping a roster in transition to reach the last six.

As one rivals list manager said, “If their best players can stay fit and in the park, they can contend for the eight. If they don’t, they look like they’re too young.”

Until the top 22 of all teams, or 23 if you include the revised new sub-rule, is confirmed, age and game profiles can be massaged or changed significantly if injuries or Elder Statesmen’s form become an issue.

Collingwood (25.9 years, 101.1 games last year) and Port Adelaide (25.7, 104.6 last year), in what may be Ken Hinkley’s final year, also remain in the sweet spot. The Magpies pulled off nine memorable single-digit percentage wins last season before falling just short of a grand final. Will opponents have a better understanding of their system and the ability to clear opposing presses this season?

Carlton’s supporters are desperate for a return to the glory years of the 1980s and 90s after enduring two decades of upheaval. The Blues, inexperienced for age (24.8) and matches (77.6) last year, were in the top eight through Sunday night’s 23rd round, but slipped against the Magpies thanks to a final-quarter meltdown. The Blues have not been alive since September 2013 but club insiders believe they are getting closer to the Premiership draft.

Again, the stats can be misleading as age and experience can be surpassed by A-tier talent. The Blues have a backbone, including forwards Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow, that is the envy of most teams and that’s why they’re expected to reach the finals this season. The Hawks don’t have that kind of luxury.

History also suggests that Premiership teams need to finish in the top six to score points and top five to score. The Cats were the ultimate team last year, taking first place in both categories. They were elite in other areas as well, including scores per Inside 50 and containing opponents in their Inside 50s. They also finished fourth for the locking differential.

In the past two decades, only three first-timers in scoring have finished outside the top six — the 2017 Tigers (eighth), Bulldogs of 16 (12th), and the 2005 Swans (14th). But all three were defensively elite. The Tigers were the stingiest team in the competition, the Bulldogs were third on points while the Swans were second on points.

Looking back at 2022, only the Cats, Swans and Demons led in scoring and defense. The Magpies finished ninth for points and eighth for points against. St Kilda, looking for promotion in the second half from Ross Lyon, finished a respectable seventh in points compared to last season, but even with Max King up front, he finished 15th on goals.

The Bulldogs finished fifth on points and 11th on points but hope to rectify the latter by securing veteran Liam Jones. The free-running Bombers of ’21 were a bunch last year (13th on points, 16th on points) while the Blues were in midfield on points and elite (6th) on points against, adding to frustration over the missing September. It was no surprise to see North Melbourne in last place in both categories and the Eagles in 17th place.

The back-to-back Tigers of 2020 and ’21 were an anomaly in that they finished outside the top 5 due to the stoppage difference, but their play was more based around regaining possession in the first period after a stoppage.

Overall, last season’s Cats blueprint is what all teams are yearning for. Out of six key statistical categories, the Cats were the only side elite overall, namely Points For, Points Per 50 Inside Percentage, Points Against, Points Per 50 Inside Against, Points from Turnover Differential, and Points from Stop Differential. The demons and swans were elite in five categories, but again, the stats show no heart and no street smarts.

The Pies were elite in only one category (points per inside 50 vs), but fell just a point short of the sport’s flagship event. Gold Coast, despite a big improvement under Stuart Dew and missing the top 8 by just two games, Greater Western Sydney, Crows, Eagles, Saints and Kangaroos were not elite in any of the six categories.

At the start of a new season, one club’s recruiter was quick to point out that a Premiership cocktail requires more than just talent on the pitch, as the window rarely opens unless the right chief executive, head of football, recruiter and coach available.

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Ryan Sederquist

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